HIA (The Housing Industry Association) recently made the Australian Energy Market Commission aware of their concerns regarding significant delays in installing power to newly constructed homes due to the Federal Contestable Metering (Power of Choice) legislation, which was realized in 2017.
Under the Power of Choice ruling, all new electricity meters installed in new homes must be advanced or ‘smart.’ It also made retailers and metering coordinators, rather than distribution network businesses, responsible for arranging metering services for their customers.
The policy has seen unanticipated repercussions, according to HIA Chief Executive Industry Policy Kristin Brookfield. Including the application period, the average time for connecting electricity to new homes has become longer, and can take up to 8-16 weeks.
Brookfield said that the delays are being caused by the need to involve both the Electricity Network Utility and the Retailer in coordinating the installation.
“Splitting of duties between the Network Utility and Retailer has resulted in what was a simple process now becoming far more complex. In terms of getting power to the site, getting a meter hung and getting the new meter powered up, the process now goes through eight sets of hands instead of the previous one, “Brookfield noted.
While this is a nationwide problem, South Australia and Queensland are bearing the brunt of the it, and a number of builders have become financially strained.. As a result, some homebuyers have waited longer for their power to be connected than they spent waiting for their homes to be built.
New South Wales, meanwhile, has adapted well compared to the rest of the states since its laws allowed an electrician to install the meters, although there have been some issues in regional areas.
HIA detailed some of the negative effects of the increase in the connection timeframes, including the use of portable generators for building work and in handing over a new home, as well as builders being penalised for delays in completion dates.
Delays were estimated to cost builders and homebuyers alike at least $2,000 per home.
In response, HIA is lobbying to implement regulatory changes, such as requiring electricity retailers to install new electricity meters for customers within a defined timeframe – the proposed period is 6 days. The association also wants to potentially put a system in place to fine retailers/providers if they fail to meet the timeframe.
“HIA is ultimately seeking to have the outcome of the new arrangements be identical to the outcome that was possible before December last year. That is, a builder, home owner or the builders electrician, must be able to place a call to a single entity and within a maximum period of 2 weeks a new smart meter be installed, the site powered up and commissioned and power be available to be used for either the construction phase of the project or by the time the home is completed, whichever the client wishes. “
“HIA considers that for a retailer to be able to provide timely installations, urgent changes to the process are required that permit a builder’s electrician or electrical contractor who has specific qualifications, to run the mains power from the pit or pole to site, hang the meter and power it up, in a single visit.”
While the Federal Government has already requested the Australian Energy Market Commission to make the necessary alteration the association submitted, Brookfield hopes this can be done more quickly. “In reading the National Electricity Rules and our discussions with the various bodies involved, our understanding is that there is no legal obstacle making these changes,” she said.